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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) developed the Smart City Challenge grant program launched in 2015, an initiative aimed to solicit ideas for innovative smart transportation systems for small to mid-size cities. There were 78 cities which applied with their own bold initiatives, and the winning city received a grant of $40 million, with other grants amounting to $65 million.

The STREET Act is a continuing effort to push for standards for smart cities. It also creates opportunities for small cities to source funding for smart city initiatives.

Some of the grants money went to four other finalists. In addition, there was another $500 million in public and private funds meant to finance some of the initiatives and applications.

For the Smart City Challenge, Columbus, Ohio won the grant for their holistic vision of technology helping residents with improved mobility and better access opportunities. The plan calls for smart logistics, connected residents, connected visitors, and sustainable transportation to provide access to jobs. Other finalists included Austin, Denver, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Portland (Oregon), and San Francisco.

With the success of the original Smart City Challenge in 2015, Congresswoman Barbara Comstock, (R-VA) and Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (D-CT) introduced R.H. 4151 providing grants for smart technology use in transportation projects. Meant for promoting the use of smart tech and systems in communities, the representatives called the bill the “Smart Technology for Resilient, Efficient, Economic and Reliable Transportation in Cities and Communities Act” (STREET Act). Introduced on October 26, 2017, the bill is in the first stage of the legislative process and is awaiting to be considered by the committee

Based on the Smart City Challenge, the STREET Act solicits projects from small to medium-sized cities with an ensuing grant of up to $100 million a year for five years for the winning city. Besides being an extension of the original Smart City Challenge, the STREET Act also includes development of a Smart City and Community Resource Guide, and a study on innovative ways for small communities to finance smart projects.

In addition, the STREET Act aims for a review of domestic and international standards focusing on best practices, a framework for tools, guidelines, and methodologies for adopting smart city concepts and technology for transportation projects.

Small Communities

The STREET Act grants aim to help small communities including rural areas with a population of 10,000 to 75,000, and small to medium-sized cities with a population from 75,000 to 850,000, to source out project funding. The accompanying resource guide acts as a supplementary online tool for other cities to follow or use as a benchmark. The transparency in project implementation helps other cities in knowing what works and does not work in other cities. This is a big help for smaller communities, providing them with project learnings. The online resource guide also serves with possible industry networking and developing connections including partnerships for future projects.

The STREET Act also gives directions for reporting for the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to create standards for Smart Cities. The STREET Act also directs the GAO to promulgate a study on innovative means for funding smart cities and other community projects.

The STREET Act is a continuing effort to push for standards for smart cities. It also creates opportunities for small cities to source funding for smart city initiatives. The resulting standards, best practices, guidelines and methodologies become part of the NIST. With these as goals for the GAO and NIST, as well as the study for making project funding sustainable, the STREET Act would make these initiatives a part of the community infrastructure, making the projects a permanent and continuous effort on the part of the community.

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